Natasha's story — Part Two

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Natasha picked up the base of the can she had carried around with her like a lucky charm and sprinkled the powder into its dish-like bottom. Then she flicked the lighter and held the flame beneath the base and watched as the powder dissolved. She could feel herself salivating as she sucked up the precious liquid into the syringe. She laid it down gently and then struggled with the cord, trying to wrap it round her arm to bring up a vein for the needle. It was dark and she needed the shot badly because her efforts at raising money for her dealer had been abysmal, and it was ages since she’d scored. Bit like her life really. She found the vein and pushed, feeling the relief almost immediately. She dropped the needle, settled back against the cold wall and let the cord fall away.

    ‘It isn’t getting any easier,’ she mumbled to herself. She turned her head and looked at the woman squatting some distance from her by a row of bushes. Karen was her friend and soul-mate. Natasha worried about Karen a lot because she would often disappear for days, and each time she surfaced it was always with a fresh scar or a fresh set of bruises. She would never ask why and Karen would never say anything, but Natasha knew there would have been violence behind the bruises.

    Karen finished pissing behind the bushes and pulled her pants up. ‘We’ve both been at it too long,’ she said and practically crawled over to Natasha’s side. She settled herself on her sleeping bag and gave a little shudder; something she often did.  ‘How long has it been Tash?’

    Natasha sniffed heavily and rubbed her eyes. She wanted to close them and drift off into the netherworld that was a known friend to the users of heroin, coke and skunk like her and her friend. There was little reality to anything now: just a few moments of clarity when she could think and reason like a normal person.

    ‘I’ve lost count of the years, Karen. I don’t know how long I’ve been sticking needles in my arm and selling my fanny for a wrap. Too fucking long, I suppose.’ She could hear the soft rumble of traffic above them on the bridge. It was a reminder that their lives, their existence was of no consequence to those who passed them by in the street. Her eyes hooded over.

    Karen peered gloomily at the litter that lay spread around the squalid corner of the underpass where they’d chosen to inject and sleep. ‘There’s no end to it you know: no way to stop.’ she mumbled. She sighed heavily. ‘God, what a miserable fucking way to live.’ She giggled, but it didn’t last long; humour was not an emotion she was familiar with. ‘A miserable way to die too,’ she added.

    Natasha lifted her head and looked at her friend. ‘If I could get the bastard who did this to me, I’d die happy. I’d cut his cock off.’ She laughed mirthlessly and looked over at her friend as she rummaged through her small backpack and pulled out the paraphernalia she needed to inject. Natasha watched dreamily as Karen prepared the drug.

    ‘Or two Bs and a wrap; that would make you die happy,’ Karen joked as she flicked a lighter to warm the powder. ‘If you could afford it,’ she laughed, and sucked the precious liquid up into the syringe.

    Natasha smiled grimly, imagining the effect of a hit like that. ‘Heroin and coke, all bundled up and running freely through my wreck of a body.’ She looked at Karen. ‘Yeah, you’re right, ‘cos there’s no way I’ll ever find the bastard.’ She closed her eyes and sighed shaking her head.     ‘Bloody twat,’ she muttered.

    Karen finished injecting and let the syringe drop by her side. She was quiet for a while, allowing the solitude and the heroin to subdue her.     ‘Why didn’t you tell the cops?’ she asked suddenly.

    Natasha shook her head slowly, not really knowing why she hadn’t gone to the police. It was a long time ago and she had become philosophical about her life; this was how it was and how it would always be.

    ‘No, I was shot,’ she answered eventually as the drug began taking effect. ‘Totally fucked — literally. I guess didn’t want anyone to know.’ She laughed suddenly and looked sharply at Karen. ‘Can you believe that? I think the word is traumatised.’ She wrinkled her nose and shook her head. ‘I fucked off.’ She looked down at her legs and began idly scratching the top of her knee, her mind drifting back to that moment. ‘Must have been fucking mad, you know.’

    Karen nodded and yawned. ‘How long ago was it, Tash?’ Her eyes closed.

    Natasha raised her eyebrows as she struggled to think. ‘God knows. Hundred years? I don’t even know how old I am now, so how do you expect me to remember?’ She closed her eyes and tried to assemble the opaque events in her mind, but the memory was never within touching distance. The drug began to work and she felt warm and comfortable. The attempt at recalling the memory faded. She tried to open her eyes, but gave up. She felt happier like that anyway.

    Karen looked at her, sadness bringing tears to her eyes. She wasn’t just crying for Natasha, but for herself too. And just as suddenly, Natasha wasn’t talking, but had drifted off, eyes closed and a hint of a smile building on her thin, cracked lips.